Pilferage problem: Can we require all our warehouse workers to take lie detector tests? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Pilferage problem: Can we require all our warehouse workers to take lie detector tests?

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Q. We’re finding that there’s been an upsurge of items missing from our warehouse inventory. Can we require our warehouse employees to submit to polygraph tests?

A.
No, not under those circumstances. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 generally prohibits the use of polygraph tests by private employers.

An exemption exists for employees who are reasonably suspected of involvement in a workplace incident that results in economic loss to the employer (such as theft) and who had access to the property.

However, the exemption is limited to a specific incident. An employer cannot use the exemption—meaning, it cannot administer a polygraph test—in situations where the so-called “ongoing investigation” is continuous. The fact that items in inventory are frequently missing from the warehouse is not a sufficient basis, standing alone, for administering a polygraph test.

Polygraph testing in response to inventory shortages would be permitted where additional evidence is obtained through subsequent investigation of specific items missing through intentional wrongdoing, and a reasonable suspicion that the specific employee to be polygraphed was involved in the incident under investigation.

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